Vancouver Avian Research Centre

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 Species: Least Flycatcher  Empidonax minimus


One of the most difficult Empidonax species to visually identify, the Least Flycatcher can otherwise be easily identified by its persistent “chebec” song.  It breeds from southern Yukon, southern NWT, south and eastward through the Canadian provinces and the northern United States to southern Newfoundland and central Labrador, the northeastern United States and along the Appalachians south to northwest Georgia.  This flycatcher winters in southern Florida, Mexico, Honduras and northern Nicaragua.


General:  Small flycatcher.  The sexes are similar in plumage.  Length 12.5-14 cm.

Weight 8-13 g.

Adult:  Upperparts, wings, and tail brownish-olive to grayish, greater and median wing coverts tipped ashy-white to lemon-white forming two wing bars.  The underparts are whitish, washed with dusky-grayish on breast and sides and slight yellowish on belly.  The lower mandible generally has a dusky tip with a yellow-orange base.  The throat is white with no yellowish cast.  The ashy-white to white eye ring is complete or nearly complete.  The legs are blackish. 

Similar Species:  When not heard the Least Flycatcher is difficult to separate from the Hammonds Flycatcher.  As with all Empidonax flycatchers great care is needed in identifying species and the ability to recognize songs and calls are a great aid. 

Behaviour:  As like other flycatchers, the Least perches on branches of trees to fly out and catch insects, frequently returning to the same perch.  Most insects are caught in mid-air but it will forage while hovering near foliage for spiders and caterpillars. 

Habitat:  Generally seen in open woods, aspen groves, orchards, and shade trees.  Breeds in deciduous or mixed woodlands, seldom in purely coniferous groves and usually around clearings or edges.  However, it is sometimes known to breed in the interior of dry woods. 


Least Flycatchers are known for their propensity to form overt clusters of territories during the breeding season.  In the spring, males sing incessantly and establish small territories in highly dense clusters that resemble classical leks.  Extra-territorial forays by males and females often result in aggressive chases and fights during peak female fertility. 

Females weave their nest from fine grasses, placing it in the crotch of a small tree or shrub, or saddling it on a limb or large branch.  Three to six creamy white eggs are laid. 


IUCN Conservation status listed as Least Concern.
Capture Rates

Although appropriate habitat at Colony Farm, the Least Flycatcher's range doesn't usually extend as far west and therefore an exciting occurrence in the park. The graph reflects capture of two individuals, believed to be a pair, caught in June and July of 2012. Capture rates are standardized as birds captured per 100 net hours from 2010 - 2012.


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